Save Your Breath: How To Sell In Trade Shows Without Pitching
You stand there, in front of your great presentation material, wearing just the right suit or logo shirt, handing out some gimmick with your company name on it, wearing just the right smile or look of professionalism. You might even have a fishbowl at the table – or some type of contest material – to collect business cards of passers for later use in your sales process. But the worst part of doing a trade show is losing your voice.
Each visitor that stops by your booth gets your pitch. You feel compelled to tell each person why your product is great, why it's different from the competition (which might be located directly across from your booth and getting a lot more attention than you're getting). You've learned the elevator spiel and how to do a pitch in 30 seconds, so the person passing by will 1. be captivated by your information, 2. stop, and 3. make a purchase.
And you do this for each and every person passing by.
WHAT IS YOUR OBJECTIVE?
Let's start with figuring out why you're even at the trade show. You're probably there to get some brand recognition (sales are usually not completed at trade shows) and get your material and pitch into the hands of buyers. The visitors are, after all, self-selected hot prospects.
Or are they? In reality, you have no idea why a person is walking by your booth. I've walked around trade shows just to see how people are selling. And each time I've come within a few feet of the booth, I get barraged with a pitch, data, and more information than I know what to do with. Do the sales folks know why I'm there? Nope. Do they ask? Nope. They just pitch and pitch and pitch. And are they cheery!
If your objective is to brand your product, just being there with a great presence is carrying your visual brand forward. For that you do not need anything more than to stand there and look professional.
Why else might you be there? To sell product? OK. Let's take a look at this. Odds are that you're not going to make a sale at the show itself. You might walk away with business cards, but that does not mean people are buyers.
HOW TO SELL AT A TRADE SHOW
If you want to sell, pitching to people as they come to your booth is not the way to do it.
Here's a truth: people do not make purchasing decisions based on information. I know this comes as a shock to those of you who regularly stand at booths at trade shows and pitch your hearts (and lungs) out. I'll say it again: pitching product, making data about your product available, will not make a sale. Oh, it will help close the sale once the buyer is at that point in the sales cycle that s / he needs data to complete his / her picture. But it will not make a sale.
A sale gets made when a buyer decides to make a purchase. Selling and buying are two different activities. For some reason, sellers believe that if they sell, buyers should know how and why to buy. But that's not true.
Sellers concentrate on finding buyers who probably have a need, and creating some means to present their product in a way that well-chosen buyers may understand or recognize a need. In other words, it's a crap shoot.
Buyers focus on finding solutions that will optimize their status quo. To do this they must recognize any outstanding issues that are getting in the way of an optimized work space, seeking to easily correct what might be lacking, and to manage whatever changes will occur once a corrective solution is discovered.
Pitching a product will address none of the above – unless the buyer has already completed all of the above actions and is seeking out a solution with parameters that will match their unique dynamics. In other words, when you focus your sale on product information, you're playing a numbers game.
Why are people at trade shows? Let's see if I can count a few of the reasons:
1. they are in town for the day and had nothing better to do;
2. they are in your field and want to see what the competition is doing;
3. they are deciding to buy a new company and want to garner promotion ideas;
4. they think they might have a problem that a product similar to yours might solve, but are not sure what a solution would look like and are running around the trade show to collect possible solutions.
None of the above reasons would close a sale for you.
HOW TO USE YOUR PRESENCE EFFECTIVELY
Trade shows are wonderful opportunities to ferret out prospective buyers (usually in category # 4 above) and teach them how to decide what a solution would look like.
As a visitor approaches your booth, as a rapid question that gets them to determine what's missing from their status quo that, if corrected, would create an optimal solution for them. For # 1-3 above, they will shift the conversation to something more personal, and you'll have saved your breath since you will not have to pitch.
When someone comes by that actually is seeking a solution, use the facilitative questions to lead them through their solution-discovery process. Help them discover what's missing in their current environment, how they can fix the problem with familiar resources, and how to make sense of all the systems issues that need to be managed before they can allow a solution into their culture.
Then, you are only asking questions while they are doing the talking – and you make pitches to those people who understand that they need you, specifically, to solve their problem.
You then not only create a customer, but you save your voice.